Did you know this even existed?
So, the Mazda 3, then, you know, the one they produced between 2003 and 2013. I’m sure you recall it in detail. No? Well it wasn’t that memorable I suppose. But the model that seems to have slipped completely below most people’s radar is the Mazda 3 MPS from that period. A car that had more power than VW’s Golf R32. It just doesn’t seem likely does it?
Blink and you’d miss it, with a 0-60mph time of 5.9sec. But miss it first time around nearly everyone did. So, here’s to better luck second time around.
One of the more exciting aspects of the car was that it produced 256bhp from its 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Another even more exciting fact is that all those horses went through the front wheels. Where VW made sure the Golf R32 got power down to all four wheels, Mazda sent it all to the front pair. Hello Mister Torque Steer.
But Mazda isn’t a mad company. They tried to mitigate the drama by fitting a mechanical limited-slip differential and, since that wouldn’t be enough, they also came up with throttle damping system that was sensitive to steering angle, so the more you turned the wheel, the more the power was reined in. In theory.
The handling is pretty good, which isn’t too surprising when you learn that Ford owned part of Mazda at the time and made sure the hot Ford Focus chassis went underneath. It’s quite a combination, when you add in a spacious five-door cabin, complete with lots of standard kit including part-leather sports seats, climate control and a banging Bose sound system.
The second-generation car came out in 2009 and that had yet more equipment as standard, including a bonnet scoop, heated seats, satnav and even blindspot warning system – pretty fabulous for 2009.
But if you want to go down the real sports route, you’ll need one of the first-generation cars, fitted with the Sports Aero Kit which was a £500 option at the time. You got a lot for your money including a huge rear spoiler, special door mirrors and Eibach springs all round. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Frazer Geraghty from Mazcare has been looking after Mazdas for more than 15 years and they’ve seen a few MPS models in that time. So what does he think of them?
“They’re terrific cars — extremely fast but very comfortable, too. Being a Mazda, they’re extremely reliable. The turbo doesn’t give any trouble and we’ve never known any timing chain issues.”
He would say that of course but maybe this is a dark horse you really should take a punt on. What sort of money are we talking?
£2000-£3995: early 2006-2007 private and dealer cars with 100k-plus miles and full service history
£4000-£4995: lower-mileage (c. 70k) 2006-2007 cars with FSH
£5000-£5995: well looked after 60k cars from 2008-2009
£6000-£6995: low miles (around 40k) 2007-2009 cars
£7000-£8495: some main dealer 50k-mile 2009 cars
£8500-£10,495: clean 2010-reg cars
£10,500-up: very low-mileage 2010 cars, 2012 cars at £11,500 approx